When Barberton posted an announcement on social media about a flood grant it received, it probably didn’t expect a deluge of ridicule and scorn.
But that’s what it got in most of the 53 comments attached by Friday to its Facebook post.
The city partnered with Norton to acquire the U.S. Geological Survey funding, which will pay for water sensors at strategic locations to monitor water levels and give advance warning of an impending flood.
The two cities worked for more than a year to get the funding — about $19,000 — starting long before the June rains that flooded parts of southern Summit County.
That didn’t stop Facebook user Colleen Murphy, who posted: “The only notification we want is the one that says we're not going to flood. How about fixing the real problem.”
A user named Debby Kitchen Potts was stewed about the grant:
“SERIOUSLY!!! I'm pretty sure all of that have flooding know WHEN it's going to flood. Would really like to know how to STOP it.”
From Nick Silverstein: “What a joke. When it rains good it floods. There's your monitoring.”
And Don Groom: “If it’s rained for days, flooding is likely. Good God where is common sense?!”
While he shares the frustration many residents feel, Norton Administrator Robert Fowler disagrees with the target. He said the grant funds can only be spent on the monitoring technology, and his city and Barberton have applied — often — for state money that could actually reduce flooding.
“We have applied for grants from the state of Ohio Emergency Management Agency and have been denied three times this year,” Fowler said. “It’s a quarterly grant application. We apply every quarter. … I’m more than frustrated.”
When contacted by phone Friday, Facebook poster Donajean Tierney, a retired Barberton school district employee, said that she, like others who were less diplomatic in their posts, would like to see some action to help residents whose homes are flooded.
“I’m not against them trying to find out,” Tierney said. “[But] what good will it do? What’s it going to tell us that we don’t already know?”
Tierney, who still lives in Barberton, said that many residents might not realize that the state has been stingy with flood-amelioration funding.
If grumbling social media commenters contacted their state representative or senator, it might prove more effective in the long run.
“They want to go straight to the ones they know,” she said. “Their mayor, their councilman.”
She suggested that a citizens panel from different sections of the city could sit down with the mayor and Council and learn what they’re working on with the flooding issue. The recent meeting in Barberton with Gov. Mike DeWine on the flooding problem is one example many residents don't know about.
Barberton resident Cynthia Boswell, owner of Boswell Professional Writing Services, said she’s seen two catastrophic floods in the past few years.
“Some people can’t come back from it,” Boswell said. “You lose your memories, your furnace, everything.”
As a certified grant writer, she explained in her Facebook comments why the USGS funds can’t be used for any purpose other than what they’re granted for.
But, for many residents, the project is like getting a helping of Spam rather than the T-bone you wanted.
“If it tells us something new, that’s great,” she said. But a “fix” will have to come at the state or federal level.
As for the USGS grant, Fowler said it’s hoped the system will provide information about the best locations to attack the flooding problem.
“We’re hoping to use the technology to ascertain where mitigation will be most effective,” he said.
And the cities will keep applying for state help.
“I know there’s a finite amount of money available, but we feel our project is worthy,” Fowler said. “We are going to keep applying.”
Barberton Mayor William Judge could not immediately be reached for comment.
Alan Ashworth can be reached at 330-996-2859 or emailed at email@example.com.